Natural versus “natural” in CAMworld

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

From: Through the Looking Glass, and
What Alice Found There
by Lewis Carroll

“How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

From: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

One of the most powerful weapons in the armamentarium of advocates of the unscientific and implausible medical practices that fall under the rubric of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or, even worse, “integrative medicine” (IM), both of which seek to seamlessly “integrate” pseudoscience with science to the point that people start to be unable to tell which is which in order to “complement” effective medicine with placebo-based medicine, is their skill manupulating language. Wally Sampson has harped on this time and time again on this blog, particularly in his masterful fictional (but all too true-sounding) response to the question, “Why would medical schools associate with quackery?” Kimball Atwood has even turned the–shall we say?–“plasticity” with which CAM/IM advocates manipulate language to their advantage into humorous and all-too-infrequently recurring Friday feature. All of us have complained about how CAM/IM advocates have coopted diet and exercise as being somehow “alternative” and are now using that as the “foot in the door” to introduce pseudoscientific quackery like reiki and homeopathy into not just medical schools but to try to persuade the incoming Obama Administration to fund quackery on equal terms with scientific medicine as part of a “reform” designed to “promote health.”

Much of the success, both previous and current, of CAM/IM advocates depends upon language. Just like Humpty-Dumpty, to ideologues like Deepak Chopra, words mean just what they choose them to mean, and, just like the view forced on Winston Smith at the Ministry of Love, two plus two are sometimes five, no matter how much we know they are four. All it takes is viewing science as “just another narrative,” as postmodernist supporters of CAM/IM would like. Once that happens, there is nothing to stop one from viewing CAM/IM as being a “narrative” just as valid as that of science-based medicine. It’s the way “quackery” has been transformed into “unconventional,” later into “alternative,” and most recently “integrative” medicine. It’s all designed to play on the natural American desire to be “fair” and the media’s desire for “balance,” even though it is not fair to give pseudoscience a patina of scientific respectability that it does not deserve or use “balance” to present quackery as though it has equal standing with scientific medicine.

If there is one word that has been corrupted by the CAM/IM movement more than any other, my vote would go the world “natural.” Of course, it’s not just the CAM/IM movement that has molded this word to mean whatever meaning is required for whatever purpose is desired. For decades, the advertising industry has done the same. However, the CAM/IM movement takes it to a new level, or “kicks it up a notch,” as a certain TV chef likes to say.

I came across a perfect example of this in the form of a man named Tony Isaacs.

Tony Isaacs happened to have written an article for one of the biggest repositories of quackery on the Internet, Mike Adams’ (who likes to call himself the “Health Ranger“) The article, entitled Patrick Swayze’s Misguided Faith in Mainstream Medicine, was a smug broadside at Patrick Swayze. Swayze, as you may recall, was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in early 2008. Last week, Swayze did something that really angered a lot of CAM/IM advocates. He gave an interview to Barbara Walters. No, it wasn’t giving an interview to Barbara Walters that annoyed CAM/IM purveyors. What angered them was what he actually said in that interview with Barbara Walters, which was relayed to me by one of my co-bloggers, as well as Majikthise. This is what Swayze said:

If anybody had that cure out there, like so many people swear they do, you’d be two things. You’d be very rich, and you’d be very famous. Otherwise, shut up.

He’s also fairly realistic about his chances:

“Five years is pretty wishful thinking,” the ‘Dirty Dancing’ star told Walters, who had been pressing the heavy question. “Two years seems likely if you’re going to believe statistics.”

Here we have a man facing death, a man who is highly unlikely to survive much longer than a year, in essence telling the CAM/IM crowd to stick it where the sun don’t shine. If ever there were a situation where the temptation to try something–anything–different, even the rankest forms of quackery, Swayze’s situation is it. After all, other celebrities facing death from cancer have succumbed to the temptation to try quackery, celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Coretta Scott King, and possibly even Michael Landon. That Swayze hasn’t followed that siren song shows that he not only realizes CAM/IM has nothing that will save his live but also that his best hope for palliation and possible extension of the time he has left rests with science- and evidence-based medicine, as small and weak as that hope may currently seem.

Tony Isaacs was displeased:

The mainstream medicine group that has failed to conquer cancer for half a century has clearly gotten into Swayze’s head. These are the same MD’s and oncologist who will more often than not advise a person to not take antioxidants when having chemo, though there have been no reliable studies to support such advice and many which dispute it. The mainstream chemo theory is to weaken and destroy the cancer cells with chemical poison which also weakens and destroys the rest of the body’s cells and organs in the often misplaced hope that the symptoms of cancer (tumors and cancer cell masses) will somehow be eliminated before the treatment itself kills the patient. It is a desperate gamble that fails more often than not. Even when most or all of the symptoms are eliminated by chemo (or radiation), the damage to the body’s natural immune system, major organs and overall health is so great that the way is paved for the return and unabated growth of cancer in a body whose natural defenses have been rendered virtually useless.

So far, nothing different than the usual tropes. Yes, differential toxicity towards cancer cells compared to normal cells is how chemotherapy works. However, the immune system is far more resiliant than woo-philes like Isaacs can conceive. They seem to think that the immune system can’t ever recover from the insult of chemotherapy. It can. It is also true that chemotherapy can increase the risk of secondary malignancies, as can radiation. However, the benefits of chemotherapy and radiation usually outweigh the risks of secondary malignancies. Indeed, if a cancer patient lives long enough to get a secondary malignancy, usually many years, isn’t that better than dying within months of the first cancer? Moreover, it’s not as though “conventional” doctors are not aware of this problem and researchers aren’t trying to find treatments that either don’t produce this complication or have a lower chance of producing it. Here, however, is where we see how the word “natural” means something different in CAM-speak than it does everywhere else:

While addressing the underlying causes of cancer is the ultimate key to long term cancer survival, one cannot ignore the symptoms of cancer which may well kill you in the short term before you are able to restore you body and immune system to optimum health. Here too, the right herbs and supplements can play a vital role in attacking tumors and cancer cells to arrest their growth and eliminate them to give the body the time it often needs to become restored and keep cancer at bay in the future. Though pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive and difficult cancer to beat, two natural items featured here at Natural News have been particularly successful against pancreatic cancer: oleander and black cumin seed oil.

Elsewhere, Isaacs drives his point home:

In contrast to at least 6000 years of the practice of natural medicine, Western medicine treats the body as a collection of parts instead of as a synergistic organism. When it comes to treating broken bones and injured body parts, mainstream Western medicine is unequaled. When this same approach is used to treat illness and disease – fixing or repairing the parts where the symptoms of underlying illnesses manifest themselves, modern medicine fails miserably

In the instance of cancer, instead of addressing the causes of cancer – toxins, pathogens and a weakened immune system – we see instead treatments that either slash, burn or poison away the tumors and cancer cells, which further weakens an immune system cancer has already defeated and only worsens the conditions that led to cancer to begin with.


And so, when we go to an oncologist and are diagnosed with cancer what is the prescribed treatment? Does it incorporate ANY of the above elements? No, sadly it does not. Our doctor prescribes what he or she has been taught: cut out, radiate or poison the symptom and do nothing to address the underlying causes and natural imbalances that led to the symptom.

As a result, the way is paved for the return of the cancer or the introduction of another cancer or serious condition. Even worse, the road to further illness is often made easier due to the damage to the immune system and major organs caused by the treatment of the symptom.

Nature, on the other hand, enables us to address virtually every area of knowledge and concern. In a future installment, we will take a look at a suggested protocol based on what nature has to offer.

This is nonsense on many, many levels. Science-based physicians have been studying nature for centuries trying to find the cause of and cure for cancer. Indeed, science has also been studying natural compounds for centuries, and many of our most potent drugs against cancer. Examples include the class of drugs known as taxanes or the class of drugs known as the vinca alcaloids, which were originally isolated and/or modified from plants. Indeed, existing happily within science- and evidence-based medicine is a discipline dedicated to finding natural products that can treat or cure disease. It’s called pharmacognosy, and is the area of study that our occasional coblogger David Kroll specializes in. What Isaacs is presenting is a false dichotomy: Either accept his pseudoscientific representations of what herbs, supplements, and “natural products” can do or die from cancer.

Isaacs is not even consistent, either. He refers to chemotherapy as “poison,” but he sells oleander plant extracts and an “oleander soup” as a treatment for various cancers and other diseases. In some places, he likes to brag about how the UT-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is supposedly studying oleander as a treatment for cancer. However, the M.D. Anderson website itself describes just how toxic oleander is:

Side Effects and Warnings:

Common oleander contains a strychnine-like toxin and a heart-active cardiac glycoside substance (similar to the prescription drug digoxin) that may cause the heart to beat rapidly or abnormally, or to stop beating. Common oleander has been used as rat poison, insecticide and fish poison and is toxic to mammals including humans. Animals (sheep) have died after eating as little as two to three leaves of Nerium oleander (common oleander). Children may die after eating a single leaf of common oleander. Eating the leaves, flowers or bark of common oleander may cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, pain, fatigue, drowsiness, unsteadiness, bloody diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, liver or kidney damage or unconsciousness. Death may occur within one day. Reports of toxicity and deaths in children and adults have been reported for decades in Australia, India, Sri Lanka and the United States.

Fruits of Thevetin peruviana (yellow oleander) are thought to be even more toxic to mammals, including humans. Based on human studies of intentional overdose (suicide attempts), eating eight or more seeds of yellow oleander may be fatal. Additional side effects of oleander ingestion include irritation and redness of lips, gums and tongue, nausea, vomiting, depression, irritability, fast breathing, sweating, stomach pain, diarrhea, headache, confusion, visual disturbances and constricted pupils. Abnormal blood tests, including tests of liver and kidney function (potassium, bilirubin, creatinine and blood urea), have been reported in humans. It is possible that plants grown in the same soil as oleander plants or in soil exposed to oleander may contain trace amounts of oleander.

That’s some seriously toxic stuff, isn’t it? In fact, it sounds a lot like…chemotherapy. Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like. Actually, it sounds like some of the most toxic chemotherapy currently used–maybe even more toxic. Worse, unlike many chemotherapeutic agents, it’s unclear if oleander extracts have any actual benefit against pancreatic cancer–or any other cancer, for that matter. It’s possible that they might, as might any natural product with biologically active agents with the appropriate chemical activity, but the evidence isn’t there in the form of randomized trials showing a definite benefit. Such evidence may be found someday, but it is not there yet. Certainly Isaacs’ anecdotes do not qualify as any sort of convincing evidence. Indeed, he brags about pancreatic cancer patients living five months using a specific oleander extract called Anvirzel, but in retort I point out that Patrick Swayze has lived nearly a year since his diagnosis using science-based medical therapies. Of course, the example of Patrick Swayze tells us no more than the example of patients taking Anvirzel. One year survival rates for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer range from 20-30%. That’s why randomized clinical trials are needed. Moreover, even if oleander is effective against pancreatic cancer, it is clear that it is unlikely to be much more effective than current chemotherapy, if it is even as effective.

So what makes chemotherapy “unnatural” and oleander “natural”? In fact, Isaacs’ hypocrisy goes beyond that, because the oleander extract he is touting is not any sort of raw plant extract. It’s a natural product isolated by–horror of horrors!–an actual biotech startup company! It’s a pharmaceutical company, and it’s not studying these extracts because of any commitment to “natural” therapies. It’s studying them because its scientists hope that they will form the basis of effective chemotherapy against various cancers and, above all else, to make money. That’s what companies exist for, to make money for their investors and shareholders. In other words, it’s just like the big pharmaceutical giants Merck and Bristol-Myers-Squibb except that it’s not that big. But it hopes to be someday.

Also, apparently one of the clinical trials using oleander is for another experimental agent dubbed testing an agent dubbed PBI-05204. It is a phase I trial, which means that it is not testing efficacy, but rather maximum tolerated dose and pharmacokinetics. In any case, get a load of what Isaacs said about it:

I realize that oleander in raw form is highly toxic – but not so when processed into the medicine and supplement form (which is itself now made by a pharmaceutical manufacturing company to exact standards) and the FDA phase I trials found no doseage limit for toxicity, but rather stopped because the dose reached a size that was impractical to exceed.

As a point of interest, the very latest oleander medicine that has entered phase I FDA testing at MD Anderson clinic has no name yet, but is known simply as PBI-05204 (the PBI stands for Phoenix Biotechnology Inc).

Taking raw plant compounds and then processing them and modifying them to make them less toxic and (hopefully) more effective is exactly what the science-based medical science of pharmacognosy has been doing for centuries and, yes, those evil pharmaceutical companies have been doing for many decades, if not over a century. More than that, PBI-05204 is a drug. Not only is it a drug, but it’s a drug made by a pharmaceutical company, a startup biotechnology company that’s raising cash from investors just like any other biotech company and, presumably, hopes someday to make a tidy profit and grow into something much bigger. Moreover, the oleander product PBI-05204 is a purified (and possibly modified) natural product, just like lots of other experimental compounds isolated, purified, chemically modified, and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, both large and small. The only difference is that this particular patented natural product is derived from a plant something that Isaacs likes, extracts of which promotes in the form of oleander soup.

Now do you understand what I am talking about? As was the case with Humpty Dumpty, to Isaacs, “natural” means exactly what he chooses it to mean, neither more nor less. The list of cancer chemotherapeutics derived from natural products is long: taxol (derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree), vincristine and vinblastine (derived from Catharanthus roseus, commonly known as the Madagascar periwinkle), campothecin and irinotecan (discovered in the barks of the Chinese camptotheca tree and the Asian nothapodytes tree), anthracycline chemotherapy agents such as doxorubicin (derived from the bacteria Streptomyces peucetius), and etoposide (derived from the mayapple), among others. To Isaacs and other advocates of so-called “natural” therapies, these chemotherapeutic agents are purest evil, the tool of the Devil himself, given that they are used by oncologists to “poison” cancer. In contrast, it doesn’t matter to him that the oleander plant is extremely toxic and that extracts from it can similarly be very toxic. To Isaacs, it’s “natural.” That means it must be good; it must be holy; it must be right. It must cure cancer, HIV, and other diseases.

Here’s another example. On Tony Isaacs’ website, a man named Chris Beckett writes:

The human body is self-preserving, self-maintaining, and self-healing. All that is required from us is to remove the causes of the problem, rest (go to bed) and preferably stop eating (fast), since the body will use the energy saved from not having to digest food, for the incredibly powerful healing & cleansing processes of the body to be initiated.

Yet on his very website, he is selling colloidal gold, all manner of supplements, various “oxygen-saturated” gels (trust me, you don’t need extra oxygen on your skin, even if the oxygen doesn’t diffuse away almost as soon as the gel is applied), and even collodal silver! Never mind that colloidal silver is no more “natural” than metallic silver forged into a ring or other jewelry. It has to be isolated, synthesized, and made into a colloidal suspension. It’s also funny how Isaacs fails to mention that chronic usage of colloidal silver can produce what I’ve occasionally termed the “Smurf syndrome,” a.k.a. agyria.

Come to think of it, there’s one other therapy that is frequently touted as “natural,” and that’s “detoxification” therapies, such as the regimens popularized by Max Gerson or Nicholas Gonzalez. After all, the colon is a finely tuned organ that naturally eliminates waste and does it quite effectively. Yet, if we are to believe “alternative” medicine practioners, the colon can’t do its job and needs to be “cleansed.” In fact, I find it hard to imagine anything more unnatural than the “colon cleansing” therapies, variants of which have been espoused and popularized by Gerson, Kelly, and Gonzalez. After all, they involve pumping large quantities of fluids into one’s rectum to fill the colon and flush out the feces and supposedly somehow “detoxify” the liver, coupled with the ingestion of all sorts of supplements and juices to the point where the carrot juice can turn patients orange. What’s so “natural” about shooting coffee (or anything other liquid) up your butt and taking up to 100 supplement pills a day? Yet, what do we find on Tony Isaac’s page?

That’s right, all sorts of “intestinal detox” and colon cleansing products that the human body does not need and that may even be harmful. In fact, the body does quite a good job of “cleansing” itself of “toxins” without all these unnatural interventions. Apparently, these advocates of “natural hygiene” don’t trust the body’s natural ability to detoxify itself. I realize that they claim that the “modern world” is so full of “toxins” that the body supposedly never evolved to eliminate, but in reality much about our world is actually cleaner than it was, say, 100 years ago. More importantly, these toxins are always unnamed or their identities only vaguely alluded to; there is never any compelling evidence presented that they cause the chronic health problems attributed to them; and there is never any evidence from basic science or clinical studies to show that these “detox regimens” actually “detoxify” anything, much less cure the diseases or relieve the symptoms for which they are advocated.

The bottom line is that the belief that “natural” is better than the products of big pharma is far more akin to religion than to science, and it is this belief that drives so much of the “alternative” medicine movement. Mr. Isaacs himself epitomizes this double standard through his hawking of various oleander extracts, even though oleander is extremely toxic, and his ability to see no conflict at all between his support of using purified components from oleander made by a profit-driven startup biotech company and his disparaging of chemotherapy and “mainstream” medicine as not being “natural.” Those of us advocating science-based oncology, in contrast, perceive no difference. Oleander extracts, if they end up being shown to be effective against cancer, will be correctly considered chemotherapy. Oncologists will happily add them to their armamentarium of chemotherapy and use them based solely on their ratio of efficacy to toxicity.

Just like any other new cancer therapy that is shown to be effective.

Also, these oleander extracts are being tested and marketed by institutions that are firmly part of the “conventional” biomedical industrial complex, with clinical trials being done at a major cancer center. Actually that’s not entirely correct. There is one difference between Isaac’s oleander and chemotherapy. Specifically, there has to be hard scientific evidence that chemotherapy is effectve against various cancers before it can be marketed. Oleander extracts have not yet passed that hurdle. They may, but they have not yet. Yet that doesn’t stop Isaacs from making unsupported claims for their efficacy, especially given that there is no evidence that I can find that oleander extracts are any more effective against, for example, pancreatic cancer than currently used chemotherapy regimens. Certainly there is no evidence that Isaacs can present of any miraculous-seeming “cures” that would make his bold admonition that Patrick Swayze would do much better with “natural” therapies like oleander than he is currently doing using the fruits scientific oncology to fight his cancer.

Co-blogger Mark Crislip once characterized CAM/IM in a frighteningly accurate way, one that I will likely appropriate when I have the opportunity:

Much of alternative medicine where it overlaps with real medicine is the art of making therapeutic mountains out of clinical molehills.

That’s exactly what Isaacs is doing here. He takes the results of cell culture studies and preliminary phase I clinical trials for various oleander extracts and, because he perceives them as being more “natural” than chemotherapy, ignores just how toxic oleander is, and arrogantly argues that his “natural” therapies are so much better than conventional chemotherapy that poor Patrick Swayze is hopelessly deluded to choose science-based medicine instead of his so-called “natural” cures.

Two and two equal three or five indeed depending the need, and words mean exactly what CAM/IM advocates choose them to mean, neither more nor less. Especially the word “natural.”

Posted in: Cancer, Clinical Trials, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (37) ↓

37 thoughts on “Natural versus “natural” in CAMworld

  1. wertys says:

    To extend the Orwellian analogy a little further, I would add that the constant invocation of mantras like ‘natural imbalance’, ‘toxic pharmaceuticals’ and so on is exactly the hallmark of Newspeak and groupthink, whereby absolute conformity to the cause is ensured by trimming the vocabulary to just a few all-purpose meaningless phrases so that if it can’t be spoken it can’t be thought.

    When was the last time you EVER heard a SCAMmer use everyday clinical phrases like ‘error bars’, ‘risk-benefit calculation’ or even ‘this treatment may be placebo’.

    Send them all to Room 101 I say !

  2. Jules says:

    I always like to point out that the vanillin extracted from wood pulp and the vanillin you find in all-natural vanilla extract are exactly the same, molecular-wise (it’s the minor components of all-natural vanilla extract that gives it the complexity and singular taste so prized by chocolate afficionadoes). And there’s nothing more toxic than some of the stuff that’s out there in Nature….

  3. marilynmann says:

    Great post. Another example of substances derived from plants that are being studied for anti-cancer effects are phytosterols, the most common of which is beta-sitosterol. There are epidemiological, cell culture and animal studies that show that phytosterols may have anti-cancer effects. Fruits and vegetables contain phytosterols. I am not aware of any clinical trials that have tested phytosterol supplements in cancer patients yet, although there is a Japanese company that has a patent on a way of delivering beta-sitosterol that is supposedly more effective. So far, they have tested this in animals.

    Interestingly, ezetimibe (Zetia, a component of Vytorin) blocks gut absorption of phytosterols. In the SEAS trial, published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, there was an increase in cancer incidence and cancer mortality in the patients who were on Vytorin (simvastatin/ezetimibe) as compared to the placebo group. The decrease in serum phytosterols caused by ezetimibe has been put forward as a possible explanation for this, although no one knows for certain.

    Because of the cancer signal in SEAS, the data safety and monitoring boards for two ongoing ezetimibe trials (SHARP and IMPROVE-IT) unblinded the cancer data from the trials. There was no increase in cancer incidence in SHARP and IMPROVE-IT, but there was a non-significant increase in cancer mortality. In addition, when cancer mortality data from SEAS, IMPROVE-IT and SHARP was pooled the increase in cancer mortality became significant. Since it is possible for a substance to increase cancer mortality but not cancer incidence, it is possible that ezetimibe increases the risk of death in people who already have cancer.

    All of this is very up in the air, but given that ezetimibe has not yet been shown to prevent heart attacks, I would argue that the safety signal must be given more weight. Hard to weigh benefits and risks when you don’t even know if a benefit exists. Unfortunately, the results of IMPROVE-IT, which is testing 40 mg simvastatin/10 mg ezetimibe vs. 40 mg simvastatin/placebo in acute coronary syndrome patients, won’t be available until 2012.

    Most recent review article on anti-cancer effects of phytosterols:

  4. marilynmann says:

    Oh, whether phytosterol supplements, which you can buy in pill form or in the form of functional foods such as certain margarines or orange juice, are safe is uncertain, so I would not encourage anyone to buy them.

    One reason for concern is that there is a rare genetic disease called sitosterolemia which causes high serum levels of phytosterols. People with sitosterolemia suffer from premature heart disease. Phytosterol supplements increase serum levels of phytosterols in normal people. Whether this is safe or not isn’t known.

    These phytosterol supplements are advertised for their ability to lower LDL-cholesterol. It is true that they lower LDL slightly but, as with ezetimibe, they have never been shown to prevent heart attacks.

    Bottom line: eat your fruits and vegetables and stay away from phytosterol supplements until more data is available.

  5. khan says:

    I wonder what led someone somewhere to think that putting coffee up one’s rectum was a good idea.

  6. weing says:

    I think it works this way. Toxic ‘natural’ compounds for cancers will give the patient a ‘natural’ death. Using artificial chemotherapeutics for treatment of cancers will give the patients ‘unnatural’ or artificial life.

  7. Joe says:

    @ khan,

    The answer may be found in a review by S. Green JAMA 1992 268 pp. 3224-7; or in an article by B.T. Brown ibid 1993 269 pp. 1635-6. Unfortunately, I don’t have ready access to those articles.

  8. I’d like all the unnatural life I can get– bring on the electodes!!!

  9. chrisb3 says:

    This reply will probably fall on deaf ears, and where this post is in response my comments above…………
    The human body is indeed self-preserving, self-maintaining, and self-healing; a broken bone will self heal as long as it is aligned correctly by an appropriate health care provider, and where a cut or abrasion will also do the same, except that this healing process is accelerated by abstaining from any form of nourishment except water according to thirst.
    Any animal, (domesticated or in the wild), will abstain from food if injured or sick, as they know instinctively that this is what the body requires to fully enable and maximize the healing process.
    Want of appetite is also Natures signal that the body requires no external nourishment for the maximum healing to take place, and where if not adhered to, will lead to indigestion/diarrhea and even vomiting: the body is unable to deal with food under these circumstances.
    The experience of influenza and other acute diseases will nearly always suspend the appetite in favour of the body feeding from internal food reserves: or fasting as it is termed within Natural health; as opposed to starvation which is the exhaustion of these food reserves after approx’ 3 to 5 weeks, and even longer in many cases.
    I suggest that you read the contemporary book by Dr Joel Fuhrman MD entitled “Fasting and Eating For Health” to understand this process.
    Fasting is also a nutritional process that was practiced very successfully in the recovery from disease by no other than Hippocrates himself, and on whose oath orthodox medicine relies in practicing their profession!!
    There are also thousands upon thousands of testimonials from people within Natural Hygiene who can vouch for what is after all Natures very own method of healing, and where I include myself within that category.

    I have no personal affiliation with the website you mention, although I do agree with most if not all of its contents as being efficacious in the cure and treatment of disease, over and above what conventional medicine has to offer, and where for the most part many of the remedies contained within it are mostly supported by Orthomolecular Medicine, or Nutritional Medicine: health at the cellular level.

    On the other hand, all synthetic drugs without exception are systemically toxic, meaning they are toxic to more than one body system as well as on a cellular level . Hence the constant need to weigh the benefits of their use with the known risks of their toxicity; specific doses of just so many mg, timing of ingestion, duration of treatment – and the prescription requirement. All this doesn’t apply to apples, magnesium or probiotics. If you eat too many apples, you get the runs – same mess for too much vitamin C. Furthermore, all drugs, from Aspirin to Zocor, also deplete essential nutrients. Most of which accumulate in body tissues because they cannot be metabolized by our enzymes which freak out when encountering this phony chemistry and simply move on. Used for a long time, drugs frequently shut down the body’s natural detoxification center, the liver, and in extreme cases destroy it – necessitating a liver transplant. Of course, essential nutrients are readily metabolized and distributed in accordance with the laws of nature, while simultaneously nourishing the liver.

    It is significant that Mainstream are slowly coming round to the view that simple lifestyle and health choices act as a prophylactic in disease causation………exercise; the avoidance of processed or adulterated foods and ensuring that we all eat our 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day; adequate rest/sleep; fresh air; and in some quarters judicious sunbathing for the procurement of the essential hormone precursor: Vitamin
    D3 which in itself has been shown to prevent up to 79% of all cancers.
    Take it or leave it, this is the ever-growing trend towards healthcare and the freedom from chronic disease: because it works.

    Chris Beckett

  10. David Gorski says:

    Thank you, Mr. Beckett, for reinforcing my point about how CAM advocates make language mean whatever they want it to. That part about “phony chemistry” was priceless.

    Also, there’s nothing “alternative” about healthy diets and exercise. You’re just doing what I like to call the “bait and switch”:

  11. wertys says:

    I tried some judicious sunbathing for my myofascial pain syndrome, but it caised my enzymes to, like, totally freak out and go all red. Made the pain worse, but fortunately I just curled up in a ball and drank some water.

    Seriously Mr Beckett. Really…

    Come and spend a week with me in my clinic and see how much so-called alternative medicine has done for my patients and maybe, just maybe you might think a little differently about what you are saying. How does your theory account for people with inborn errors of metabolism such as phenylketonuria ? How does it account for people who have Down Syndrome ? What about childhood leukaemias ? All of these cannot reasonably be said to be caused by faulty lifestyle. And my dog, who recently survived pancreatitis, just lay down and didn’t move or drink, and he was almost dead when we got him to the vet. He recovered, but not by fasting I can tell you…

    On the other hand, as a well-rehearsed rant, your post was quite amusing !

  12. Militant Agnostic says:

    If I was a philosophy professor teaching an indtroductory logic course, I would use Chris Beckett’s post as a find the fallacies assignment.

  13. chrisb3 says:

    Of course the real losers here are the patients who suffer needlessly because of the bickering, prejudice and medical-dogma from both sides of the health-argument: for or against Mainstream or Alternative.
    The predictable replies to my post were just more evidence of this.

    In my own experience, and that of many others, both sides have their benefits, and where this could be better utilized as in Integrative Medicine.

    Science-based medicine is nothing more than evidence of the effectiveness of any particular treatment or modality of health recovery: either the patient becomes well or does not.
    The proof of the pudding is therefore in the eating, and where if the Mainstream apologists on this website removed their blinkers it would be to the benefit of humanity as a whole.
    Scientists after all are presumed to have a open mind, and where presently, this is just not the case.

  14. Fifi says:

    chrisb3 – “Science-based medicine is nothing more than evidence of the effectiveness of any particular treatment or modality of health recovery:”

    Yes and CAM hasn’t provided scientific evidence it’s effective which is why people such as yourself come here to defend their website that they’re clearly so not associated with they have to point out that they’re not associated with it just to be clear they’re not associated ;-) Now, some things that CAM likes to pretend are CAM but that actually belong outside of New Age beliefs (and that aren’t faith based as CAM beliefs are) – such as awareness meditation in the Buddhist tradition – are showing promise and, if proven to be effective, will become yet another tool in the medicine’s bag that is used in a directed, appropriate way rather than as “wellness” panacea.

    As is so often said, the plural of anecdote isn’t data. It seems you’re unclear on what science is and what constitutes evidence within the realm of science. This lack of understanding and knowledge also seems to have led you down a rather narrow alley of prejudices which ends at a dead end bias against medicine and science in favor of faith. Nothing wrong with faith and searching for meaning but that’s practicing a religion and not science – you’re into faith healing, just be honest about it rather than trying to diminish science because your own faith is weak so you want outside confirmation (or you’re aware that people will only buy your faith if it’s disguised as science).

    Go ahead and eat our pudding but pudding isn’t reliable evidence, it seems however that you’ve mistaken the Jello Tree for the Tree of Wisdom.

  15. David Gorski says:

    Science-based medicine is nothing more than evidence of the effectiveness of any particular treatment or modality of health recovery: either the patient becomes well or does not.
    The proof of the pudding is therefore in the eating, and where if the Mainstream apologists on this website removed their blinkers it would be to the benefit of humanity as a whole.
    Scientists after all are presumed to have a open mind, and where presently, this is just not the case.

    So show your evidence, and play by the rules of science. If you do not, what you advocate is not science-based medicine. All of us here are persuadable by scientific evidence. So show us. Or quit whining.

    In my experience, such appeals to be “open-minded” are in reality either appeals to be so open-minded that my brains fall out or distractions from the lack of positive evidence to support the vast majority of CAM as being anything more than a placebo.

    To us here at SBM, there is no such thing as “alternative” medicine. There is no such thing as “natural” medicine. There are just three types of medicine: Medicine that has been scientifically validated as effective and safe, medicine that has not been tested, and medicine that has been tested but failed the test. If “alternative” medicine did not virtually always fall into one of the latter two categories of medicine, it would not require the name “alternative.” It would just be medicine.

  16. RickK says:

    “We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. ”

    — President Barack Obama

  17. Calli Arcale says:

    In my experience, such appeals to be “open-minded” are in reality either appeals to be so open-minded that my brains fall out or distractions from the lack of positive evidence to support the vast majority of CAM as being anything more than a placebo.

    I disagree. In my experience, such appeals are code-word for “shut your mind to anything other than what I’m telling you.” It’s sad, because open-mindedness is a good thing, but 9 times out of 10, when someone complains about lack of open-mindedness, what they’re upset about is really just someone entertaining the idea that they might be wrong.

  18. Fifi says:

    RickK – I’d believe Obama’s claims about science a bit more if he didn’t choose homophobic evangelists who promote abstinance as the answer to AIDS in Africa and look to the Nazis for inspiration (I kid you not!) to represent him and his take on the future at his inauguration. I have no doubt Obama will be promoting technology since rebuilding infrastructure is his agenda, how true he’ll actually be to science remains to be seen.

  19. RickK says:

    Fifi – Yes, there are still politics to be served. But if Obama is going to give a concession to the Evangelicals, I’d rather it be with the invocation than with healthcare or public school education standards. Putting science next to healthcare in his speech seemed pointed and deliberate, particularly when so many people have told him they want healthcare unfettered by inconvenient science.

    He also acknowledged the existence of “non-believers” and the challenge of a warming planet. So I certainly am more optimistic than I’ve been in 8 years.

    As you say – we shall see.

  20. chrisb3 says:

    CAM hasn’t provided any scientific evidence?
    Well that entirely depends on your definition of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) and Scientific.
    Well, here’s just a sample for you……….

    No, I came here to support someone who I have a great deal of respect for, both as a human being, and someone I know who has only altruistic motives in his outlook on life.

    Just to correct you, CAM does not for the most part rely on faith: this is the prerogative of religion and not on healthcare.
    No one is advocating a “wellness panacea” as you call it, and where CAM can be extremely effective: such as Ayurvedic Medicine and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and where acupuncture has been accepted within Mainstream within the NHS (National Health Service) within the UK. They also have their own identity, and do not wish to be engulfed into the Mainstream whole.

    Actually, I am very clear as to what evidence means within the realms of Science….does it work?……is it efficacious in the treatment of disease?…….does the patient benefit?….are they cured?

    This reminds me of a case I witnessed on British Television some years ago: a little girl had been afflicted with Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis and who had been under the care of a specialist Professor at a major teaching Hospital for over two years. During this time frame this little girl had grown steadily worse, and was now unable to leave her wheelchair. The Mother was totally dissatisfied with her daughters condition and sought help elsewhere via CAM sources.
    The Professor, who had previously been in charge of her care was invited as a guest expert onto this programme: the little girl appeared by running onto the stage and placing herself into his lap. Somewhat amazed he recognized his former patient, and was dumbfounded to find her in a complete state of wellness and with the total eradication of her disease.
    He then went on to explain to the audience that there was absolutely no Scientific proof for her recovery……………despite the evidence of his own eyes. The audience laughed out loud in amusement.

    My lack of understanding and knowledge? extends into both Mainstream and CAM alternatives as being of much value, and where no, I am most definitely not into faith healing, but healing that is tangible and evidential, and especially so in my own case. What you have said is at best conjectural.

    Your comment………..
    “Go ahead and eat our pudding but pudding isn’t reliable evidence, it seems however that you’ve mistaken the Jello Tree for the Tree of Wisdom”.

    The pudding my dear is in the results I have witnessed within my own state of health, and that of many others who were given up by conventional medicine, and where the Tree of Wisdom for the most part lies within Nature, but not exclusively.

  21. wertys says:


    You have fallen again into a logical fallacy of non sequitur when you argue that scientific doesn’t know everything (which is true) and therefore we should just believe anything that people think works (which does not follw fron the first, correct statement)

    You want anecdotes ? I got a million of ‘em. We all got millions of ‘em. If you think anecdotes are the test of a treatment might I direct you to some of the previous entries on this blog to see what we consider to be evidence.

    Our points regarding the evidence of effectiveness of unscientific medicine relate to the proclivity of such practitioners to cherry pick their data and not to use a scientific process of peer review and logical progression from hypothesis to tentative acceptance to recogntition as an accepted fact. Most evidence relating to CAM is either negative )ie the study was done and did not show a benefit beyond placebo) or of such poor quality, with so many obvious sources of potential bias, that the result cannot be relied upon, whether it supports your pet hypothesis or not. So get up to speed with your reading if you wish us to take your comments more seriously

  22. Fifi says:

    chrisb3 – The fact that you keep suggesting your subjective experience is evidence clearly indicates you don’t actually understand what evidence means in a scientific or medical context (only a faith based one where subjective experience is considered “evidence”).

  23. Ex-drone says:


    It’s difficult to understand what your standard for evidence is. I went to the Vitamin Council research website that you recommended, and it is just a list of assertions with no citations of any published reports or any indication of the source of those assertions. The examples you give in your post above are only anecdotes. So if I just assert a story of something that I say happened to me in my past, that suffices as evidence for you?

  24. Fifi says:

    RickK – True and I am cautiously hopeful (just watching to see if it’s all pretty words and window dressing or if there will be real change rather than placating or pandering). At the very least I get to high five my friends that finally one of their people is ruler of the free world! And there’s no way he can do nearly the damage the Bush/Rove/Cheney axis of evil did in the world at large!

  25. Chris says:

    chrisb3 said “CAM hasn’t provided any scientific evidence?
    Well that entirely depends on your definition of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) and Scientific.
    Well, here’s just a sample for you……….

    1) Vitamin is not really “CAM” unless they are in outrageous quantitites, or are touted to do things that are not part of reality.

    2) Scientific evidence goes by certain rules. That is so everyone knows what is going on. See:

    3) The website you posted has a quality listed on the above “Playing by the Rules” list for things to NOT do, mainly:
    ” 5. Form an activist organization to promote your beliefs.”

  26. marilynmann says:

    Now I’ve seen everything. R.J. Reynolds owns a company that sells “natural” cigarettes.

    Home » Spin of the Day » Jan 16, 2009
    An Environmentally-Conscious, “Greener” Cigarette?
    Topics: health | secrecy | tobacco
    Source: Plenty Magazine, January 14, 2009
    The Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, maker of the niche brand “American Spirit” cigarettes, is trying to lure environmentally conscious smokers with certified organic, pesticide-free tobacco. Santa Fe, which markets itself as an “earth friendly” and “socially progressive” tobacco company, is actually owned by R.J. Reynolds (now Reynolds American), maker of the mainstream brands Camel and Winston. Santa Fe does not indicate its relationship with RJR anywhere on American Spirit’s packaging or in its advertisements. The use of the word “natural,” the Native American on its logo, and marketing of its tobacco as “pesticide free” and grown using sustainable farming practices have all helped mislead consumers that American Spirit cigarettes are safer than others. Because it is an independent subsidiary of RJR, Santa Fe can also elude decisions made by its parent company. For example, last November, RJR announced it was going to stop advertising its brands in newspapers and magazines, but Santa Fe continued advertising in periodicals. In 1994, Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro, also targeting hip, environmentally-conscious smokers with a fake “micro-brew” cigarette brand called Dave’s, but when people found out the brand was really owned by Philip Morris, it disappeared.

  27. David Gorski says:

    The pudding my dear is in the results I have witnessed within my own state of health, and that of many others who were given up by conventional medicine, and where the Tree of Wisdom for the most part lies within Nature, but not exclusively.

    I have witnessed within my own experience patients who delayed getting treatment too long because they believed in useless “alternative medicine”:

    Are my anecdotes any less valid?

    The point is, anecdotes are like…well you know what…everybody’s got one, and they all stink. The very reason science- and evidence-based medicine is required is because anecdotes are inherently unreliable, prone to bias and confusing correlation with causation.

  28. Jurjen S. says:

    That’s hardly news. The American Spirit red package has been around for a few years; I smoked them when they first came out, in the first half of 2005, I think. I also knew Santa Fe Tobacco was a subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds; it’s on their corporate literature. That this comes as a surprise to anybody only means they haven’t been paying attention for the past four years or so.

    The packaging also states explicitly that not using pesticides etc. does not make a “safer cigarette.” So if anyone’s being misled, it’s because they’re deluding themselves.

  29. Diane Henry says:

    I myself am fond of “natural” cheetos…I think they’re hand gathered, air dried and humanely packaged. lol

  30. Prometheus says:

    Of course the real losers here are the patients who suffer needlessly because of the bickering, prejudice and medical-dogma from both sides of the health-argument: for or against Mainstream or Alternative.

    The predictable replies to my post were just more evidence of this.

    As I see it, the “losers” are the patients who waste their time, money and hope on treatments that haven’t been shown to work.

    I don’t see any advantage – to the patient, at least – to adding “alternative” therapies that have not been shown to work to “mainstream” therapies that have been shown to work.

    The only person who benefits from this sort of “integrative medicine” is the person who provides the unproven therapy – they get to hide their failure behind the real therapy (“If they get better, it’s the ‘integrative medicine’ that did it; if they don’t get better, it was the ‘mainstream’ medicine that hurt them.”).

    As for the “predictable replies” – well, if you talk nonsense, it should be pretty predictable that someone on this ‘blog will call you on it.

    “CAM” consists of four classes of “therapies”:

    [1] “Therapies” that are known to be helpful, but are part of every physician’s recommendations. This includes getting adequate sleep, exercise and relaxation as well as eating a balanced, healthy diet and maintaining a normal body weight. These are things my doctor asks me about (and chides me about) at every visit. “CAM” has repeatedly tried to co-opt these common-sense (and routine) recommendations into their armamentarium as a means of “padding their resume”.

    [2] “Therapies” that are of questionable efficacy but are so benign as to be harmless in almost every situation. These would include prayer, meditation (as better than simple “relaxation”), yoga (as better than other types of exercise) and massage.

    [3] “Therapies” that have not been shown to be effective, but have also not (yet) been shown to be ineffective. These would include a number of “herbal” remedies (“herbs” can and often do include physiologically active substances which can have real physiological effects) and most of the rest of “CAM”.

    [4] “Therapies” that have been shown to be ineffective, but are still used as part of “CAM”. These would include homeopathy, chiropractic (except for the relief of lower back pain, where it is as effective as physiotherapy), “energy medicine”, acupuncture, etc. The greatest weakness of “CAM” is its inability to discard any therapy, no matter how many times it has been proven ineffective.

    The sad fact is that “CAM” or “alternative medicine” is the proverbial “ninety pound weakling” (ref: “Charles Atlas” adverts) in the field of “health care”. Any time a “CAM” therapy is shown to be effective, “mainstream” (real) medicine takes it as its own. And like a bullied child, “CAM” is left with just the “broken” therapies to play with.

    “Integrative Medicine” is simply another attempt by “CAM” to play with the “big kids” of real medicine – a way for the “alternative” therapists to gain some vicarious glory by working in the shadow of real medicine.

    I’m not buying it.

    And even if the majority of the public clamors for chiropractic or “mega-vitamins” or “herbal/natural” remedies, that still won’t make “CAM” anything more that a “wanna-be” in the field of medicine.

    Sorry if that makes some people unhappy, but that’s the way it is.


  31. marilynmann says:

    As a follow up to my previous two comments, here is the latest review article on use of plant sterol supplementation for lowering cholesterol:

    Controversial role of plant sterol esters in the management of hypercholesterolaemia
    Oliver Weingärtner*, Michael Böhm and Ulrich Laufs
    European Heart Journal advance access published online January 21, 2009.

    The article is open access.

  32. epersonae says:

    I myself am fond of “natural” cheetos…I think they’re hand gathered, air dried and humanely packaged. lol

    Not to derail, but I loooove Natural Cheetos. Not that I have any illusions of them being good for me, but they’re much tastier than the original. (In our house, they’re referred to as “cheesy-poofs” ala South Park.)

  33. beatis says:

    Every time Mr Isaacs succeeds in convincing a person not to have standard cancer therapy, in my opinion he is morally responsible should they die of cancer.

    I wonder if Mr Isaacs has any idea how hard it is for a person to come to terms with the fact that their cancer is incurable. Every time he succeeds in convincing someone that his pills and potions can cure them of their incurable cancer, he inevitably makes them go through this ordeal again and this makes him morally responsible for the ensuing misery.

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